This week my son started a conversation with me out of the blue; something was on his mind and bothering him.

He began by saying, “There’s a naughty boy at school. He’s bigger than me and older than me.”

“Why is he naughty?” I asked.

“Well, he doesn’t let me do things.”

“Like what?”

“He stops me from running or going places.”

Being a former school teacher for 16 years, my stomach clenched as I knew that what he was describing was in fact a Bully.

I dreaded the time when I would begin to hear stories like this, because often we as parents can feel nervous to send our children into the world where we know they are going to get hurt sometimes. I have been able to protect him thus far, build up his sense of self and even give him words to use when he doesn’t like something, but that was with kids his own age. Now he is in the BIG world, and he’s going to have to learn how to cope with things.

This is especially difficult for me since as a former teacher I was vigilant about keeping bullying out of my classroom. If anything even smelled of the “B” word, I dealt with it head on, immediately. No one was ever unclear as to what my expectations were for behaviour and kindness in my classroom.

The problem now is that my son is not guaranteed to be in a classroom with a teacher who is like me. This is quite unsettling, however, knowing what I do about children and self-esteem, I know there are definitely things I can do at home and at the school to empower my son, and this is what I’m going to share with you in this article series.

This week I’m going to help you understand what a bully actually is and who they are. This will help you understand if your child is experiencing a normal disagreement or fight or if it is in fact bullying. It’s important to distinguish between the two because you handle them very differently.

A Bully is someone who:

-gets pleasure from their victim’s pain (example: “I’m glad he’s crying, irritated or upset right now”)

-their actions are always on purpose

-their actions are always intended to cause harm (emotional or physical)

-there is always an imbalance of power, stature or age

-they have a sense of entitlement (we’ll talk about where this comes from in Part 2 of this series)

Here are two scenarios. One is of a bully and one is not. See if you can differentiate the two.

Scenario 1:
Johnny, a boy aged 7, takes a disliking to a smaller boy. He’s jealous of him, so he wants to make himself feel better. He notices the smaller boy running around laughing and smiling on the playground. Johnny walks over to the small boy and stands in front him, while looking down. Then he says, “You can’t play here”. He notices that the smaller boy looks scared and immediately feels happy inside. He begins to think of other ways he can make this boy scared.

Scenario 2:
Susie is asked by her teacher to pick 3 people to be in her group. Usually she would pick her good friend Jenny, but Jenny wasn’t paying attention to her last recess so she picks other people instead. She sees that Jenny is confused. In fact Jenny actually mouths the words, “Why didn’t you pick me?” Susie turns away and pretends she doesn’t see Jenny.

Can you choose the Bully? Is it Johnny or Susie? If you chose Johnny, you are correct.

What Susie did is not kind, but you can see that it’s probably an isolated incident because she felt hurt that day. It’ll take a bit of coaxing from Jenny, but you can see that they will eventually make up and be friends again. This was an argument. Arguments happen between good friends and siblings.

Johnny, on the other hand, had no relationship with the smaller boy, he just chose to dislike him and intimidate him. It was planned and he definitely felt good that the small boy was scared. The fact that the nasty behaviour was going to continue is a clear sign that Johnny is a Bully. Bullying happens between people who are not really friends and may not even really know one another.

The important thing to remember is that Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. There are NO stereotypes. You could have the prettiest girl be one of the most terrible Bullies. As well, you could have one of the poorest boys be one. A top A student could be a Bully and so could a student who struggles.

If you are a parent who has a child who is the victim of a bully, there are certain things you can and NEED to do to help your child through this.

As well, if you are a parent and have been notified that your child is bullying other children, there are certain things you can and NEED to do to help them. All kids bully for a reason.

Join me next week for Part 2 of this series where I will help you get to the nitty gritty of WHY kids bully. It’s with this understanding that you can go forth and know exactly how to help them or your child.

Ending bullying is a huge mission for me. Please help spread my mission and forward this article to any parent you know. Tweet it, Facebook it, Digg it, whatever you can do, please do it. Thank you.

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.